In what is being described as a “perfect storm,” the AFC Championship Game delivered a huge audience of 53.3 million viewers for the CBS broadcast, the network reported. The turnout for the Denver Broncos’ nail-biting 20-18 win over the New England Patriots marks the second-largest total for an AFC Championship Game going back as far as CBS has records, which goes back to 1978.
The AP notes that much of the East Coast was socked in by an enormous blizzard, keeping people at home and creating favorable conditions for a big TV turnout. Meanwhile, the game featured a matchup between two legendary rival quarterbacks in the Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Broncos’ Peyton Manning.
CBS noted that the Jets-Steelers game in 2011 remains the most-watched AFC Championship Game in the past 39 years, drawing 55 million viewers.
In a rare occurrence, the early NFL game did better than the late game on Championship Sunday. The NFC Championship Game, which aired Sunday night on Fox, drew 45.7 million viewers, as the Carolina Panthers dominated the Arizona Cardinals 49-15.
That was up from 42.1 million in the late slot a year ago for a New England blowout of Indianapolis in the AFC title game.
Sunday’s two-game average of 49.7 million viewers is up 8% over last year’s conference championship matches.